Business of Baseball Report

The Price is Right

Major League Baseball is hoping to set the fixed sales price of the Washington Nationals by the end of this week. The price tag is rumored to be $450 million, and the league will try to narrow the field of eight potential bidders down to two or three. Once the fixed price scares off some of the less serious bidders, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and company can make a final decision as to who will join the baseball ownership fraternity. Factors that will be considered include whether the applicants went to college with Selig or whether the word “union” would send them into a frothing rage. All joking aside, the group that will take ownership of the Nationals will most definitely be someone sympathetic to the league’s party line.

The last time a baseball team was sold, Selig parted with his Milwaukee Brewers for $223 million in January, so the league will be fetching twice as much for the former Montreal Expos. This is well short of the record $750 million that the Red Sox went for in 2002.

Cardinals Switch Radio Stations

I began documenting the ongoing negotiations between the St. Louis Cardinals, their current radio affiliate KMOX (1120 AM) and prospective radio affiliate KTRS a few months ago. Last week, the Cardinals decided to end their 52-year relationship with KMOX and will now have their radio broadcasts provided by KTRS. As part of the deal, the Cardinals are buying 50% of the radio station, and a majority of the station’s programming will revolve around the team.

KMOX made an attempt to lower the guaranteed portion of their rights fee from $6.7 million to $4.7 million; the difference would be made up with a revenue-sharing plan, but the Cardinals wouldn’t play ball since they were outbid by KTRS. An ancillary benefit of the deal is that KMOX will no longer be advertising on a large sign in center field at Busch Stadium. With an estimated value of $700,000 a season, selling the sign rights will be yet another way for the team to bring in extra revenue.

The one big detriment to the switch is that KTRS has a much weaker nighttime signal than KMOX. KTRS is trying to alleviate that by making arrangements with other radio stations to simulcast KTRS’s coverage of the games. KTRS has already made arrangements with WSMI (106.1 FM) to provide coverage in Illinois, and they’re looking to add to their 110-station network so that they can cover areas in the Midwest that had relied on KMOX for their broadcast.

Angels Without TV Package for 2006

It’s been a tumultuous season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and it’s mostly their own doing. First was the name change. Then there’s the ongoing legal fight with the city of Anaheim. Now the Angels are having a hard time securing a television deal for the 2006 season.

Currently, 49 Angels games are shown on a local network (channel 9) and 102 are shown on Fox Sports Network (FSN) West. The local network is dropping the Angels for the Dodgers next season, and while the Angels would like to air anywhere from 35 to 50 games on another local network (channel 5 or channel 13), it’s the 100 games that they want FSN West to carry that’s becoming a problem.

Under the current contract that expires in 2008, FSN West is only required to carry 50 games. To date, the network has refused to carry any additional games until the Angels negotiate an extension that would prohibit Angels owner Arte Moreno from launching his own cable channel to spotlight the team.

Washington, D.C. Stadium News and Notes

In June, local businesses in the Washington, D.C. area were up in arms over a new business tax put in place to fund the construction of the Washington Nationals’ new arena. Despite the protests, the city has already collected more than $15 million when it had projected only $14 million in receipts for the entire year. Sales tax receipts attributable to the baseball team are also better than estimated. While the city expected to make only $10.5 million for the year, it’s ahead of that pace with $6.7 million.

The plans for the new stadium also cleared a major hurdle when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts declined to impose an injunction on the city that could have blocked the acquisition of property that is currently part of the stadium’s footprint. Three landowners had filed the suit because they felt the city’s estimate of the value of the land was low and arbitrarily came in just below the city’s $165-million cap that was established by the D.C. city council. Roberts felt otherwise, and if the current landowners don’t sell, the city will take the land through eminent domain.

Finally, ProFunds Advisors, a local Bethesda investment firm, is very close to a deal with the D.C Sports and Entertainment Commission for the naming rights of RFK Memorial Stadium. Sources indicate that the investment company will pay between $3.5 million and $4 million to get their name on the stadium.

Andrew Zimbalist Critical of Juicing the Game

While I haven’t yet read Howard Bryant’s Juicing the Game, I have read favorable reviews by Hardball Times’ own Steve Treder and SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee Co-Chair Maury Brown. Renowned author and economist Andrew Zimbalist definitely has a different take on the book. In his review, he throws out several instances where Mr. Bryant is loose with his facts and dispels what he feels are some of the false statements made in the book.

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